To know the good shepherd is to love Him. But to love Him, we must first listen to Him to be able to recognize His voice over the din of the world. For as we become attuned to His voice and incline our ears, we will learn to not only embrace His word, but Incorporate it into our lives. Right now the world is a very noisy place, and there’s times we’re not sure who or what to listen to. But if we know the voice of the good shepherd…we can rest assured He will lead us safely through all of this.
Shepherds were some of the most marginalized people group of Biblical times…they were relegated to an unimportant and distasteful position within Jewish society. But yet, God saw fit for them to be the first to hear about the birth of the Messiah. But why? We have only to search Old Testament Scriptures to see the clear correlation between the shepherds on that dark hillside and Jesus Christ. Probably one of the best known Psalms, the 23rd Psalm, starts out, “The Lord is my Shepherd I shall not want.” Isaiah 40:11 talks of Jesus like this, “He tends His flock like a Shepherd; He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart…” And if we look in the New Testament, Jesus Himself says, “I am the good Shepherd.” (John 10:14) And elsewhere we find, in Hebrews 13:20 Jesus is called the Great Shepherd. This scruffy group of men might not have had much notoriety before men…but before God, He chose to honor them in the same way He honored His Son…the Shepherd of all mankind.
Over the 36 years as a Nurse this Scripture was my “work verse”. Health Care is a hard career, and I would remind myself daily with this Scripture that the Lord had entrusted me with these patients to do the very best job I could. For just as God watches over His flock like a shepherd (Jeremiah 31:10)…I was to do the same.
For a moment, put yourself out on that grassy mountainside next to a campfire as you take your turn watching for wild animals that might attack the flocks. Some of your fellow shepherds are dosing…some quietly talking….when suddenly this brilliant being stands in front of you, declaring the Messiah has come! And before you can even start to take this in… a great company of heavenly host appear. It would be like bottling every flash of lightning that’s ever happened…and then turning them all loose at the same time! And as if that wasn’t enough, these heavenly beings perform a song for you…saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests.” But as quickly as they appeared…they disappear…and you’re left to collect your wits and take a deep breath, all the while thinking about what you’ve just witnessed. Someone suggests traveling down to Bethlehem to see if this is true…and so off you go. And sure enough, just as the angel said, you find this tiny baby in a cattle stall… sleeping in a hay filled manger. So what do you do with all this good news? You have to tell others about what you saw and heard, right? That’s when common, uneducated men boldly started declaring the fulfillment of God’s Word…and when lowly shepherds told others about the coming of the Good Shepherd.
Without hesitation I know you’d answer a resounding “Yes!” to my question of whether you’d die for your spouse or children. But if we look closely at this verse, we’re not being asked to do that. Rather, we’re being directed to lay down our lives for our fellow Christians . OK wait, you want me to sacrifice for who? My family is one thing, but a neighbor or friend or somebody I hardly know at Church…I don’t know if I can do that. But when Jesus died on that Cross He didn’t pick and choose who He was dying for…He died for all. In John 10:11 it says, ” I am the good Shepherd. The good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.” To love one another with the Agape love that Christ first showed us is to be willing to be poured out like a drink offering for our brothers…regardless of who they are.
The Lord’s commission to “Feed My sheep” is without exception for all Believers. But for all of you who have been around livestock and done chores, you know that it can be very frustrating moving and feeding animals. They don’t want to go where you want them to…they’re noisy, dirty, stinky and pushy. And on top of that, daily chores are mundane, boring, and at times unnerving when the animals act up. You find yourself saying, “I wish someone else would do this!” But “Feed My sheep” means much more than just giving nourishment. For God, it means shepherding, tending, guarding and leading a group of at times unruly people. People that you can tenderly lead to (Living) water, but then watch as they refuse to drink. That’s when discouragement can set in, but remember it’s not about you, so don’t take it personally… just continue to do the chores you’ve been called to.
God is the source of all truth… and the starting point of gaining this knowledge is the fear of the Lord. And as we learn to trust God, the closer we are drawn to Him and His love. Finally, as He shepherds us, we are lead to safe ground…a stable and unchanging foundation where we can build our life and hope upon.
Jesus wasn’t chastising the Disciples, He was simply speaking the truth, and fulfilling the prophecy spoken of from Zechariah. Jesus Christ is our Good Shepherd…the one Who cares for, watches over, and provides for the welfare of His flock…Christian Believers everywhere.